22.12.2017 change 22.12.2017

Ecologist: Natural and artificial Christmas trees both bad for the environment

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Both natural, living and artificial Christmas trees have a negative impact on the environment; although the former are more ecological - says ecologist Prof. Piotr Skubała from the University of Silesia. He appeals for restraint when planning holiday decorations.

"If you care about the environment, simply let these trees grow - we will have less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, cleaner air and a more beautiful landscape. I realize that we are used to this symbol, but we should remember that both natural and artificial Christmas trees have their ecological and carbon footprint" - said Piotr Skubała, Associate Professor at the Ecology Department of the Faculty of Biology and Environmental Protection of the University of Silesia.

The ecological footprint is an indicator that allows to estimate the consumption of natural resources in relation to the possibility of their reproduction by the Earth. In turn, the carbon footprint is the total sum of greenhouse gas emissions caused directly or indirectly by a given person, event or product.

"Production of a natural Christmas tree generates 3.1 kg of greenhouse gases per year, while the production of an artificial one - 8.1 kg. The latter has a much more negative impact on the environment" - said Prof. Skubała.

In this context, among the advantages of the natural Christmas tree, he mentioned its natural decomposition after "use", the possibility of using it as fuel, recycling or composting. He added that there is also the possibility of replanting it, if it has been bought it in a special mesh pot, in which the roots are not pruned.

The ecologist also argued that it is better to buy a natural Christmas tree from certified plantations that grow trees according to specific, environmentally friendly rules.

An artificial Christmas tree, according to Prof. Skubała, has only one advantage. "This Christmas tree becomes more ecological than a natural one when we use it for at least 12 years. The question is whether anyone uses the same tree for so many years" - he said.

Harmfulness of artificial tree appears already during its production, during which carcinogenic substances are released. "Besides, they are produced mainly from non-renewable natural resources - from gas, oil. Moreover, artificial Christmas trees break down for up to several hundred years, poisoning water, soil, air. And if we wanted to burn them, even in a special facility, this process produces toxins and very dangerous carcinogenic compounds" - explained the ecologist.

"That\'s why I recommend thinking about whether we really need a Christmas tree for Christmas - if so, let\'s keep it moderate, consider whether, for example, a conifer branch would not be enough, or it must be an entire tree" - appealed Prof. Skubała, who - as he admitted - had not have a Christmas tree in his house for years.

He also reminded that it is possible to buy or make alternative Christmas trees, for example ones made of recycled materials.

"We should not turn Christmas tree size into a competition because there is no place for such thinking in the contemporary world full of environmental hazards" - concluded Prof. Skubała. (PAP)

PAP - Science in Poland

author: Agnieszka Kliks-Pudlik

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